A Thai court started issuing rulings Wednesday in a major human trafficking trial with more than 103 defendants, including a senior army officer, who are accused in a modern-day slavery trade.
The defendants were arrested in 2015 after 36 bodies were discovered in shallow graves in southern Thailand. According to investigators, smugglers held Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar for ransom in jungle camps until relatives could pay for their release.
The process of handing down verdicts is complicated in Thailand and it could take hours before details are announced.
The defendants are charged with human trafficking and have pleaded not guilty.
The case drew attention when its lead police investigator, Maj. Gen. Paween Pongsirin, fled to Australia and said he feared for his life after his findings implicated “influential people” in Thailand who wanted to silence him.
Thailand’s military government has said it is making the fight against human trafficking a national priority.
In a separate case also in 2015, labor abuses in the Thai seafood industry gained in prominence around the globe after a two-year investigation by The Associated Press led to the freeing of more than 2,000 slaves and the arrest of more than a dozen alleged traffickers. Several have been convicted.